Category: Uncategorized

The Force Awakens and the uncertain future of movie critics

Normally when a movie studio decides not to screen a film for critics, it’s a sign of weakness. The film’s not working, so rather than let bad word of mouth hurt the opening weekend, the move is just to hide the problem from the moviegoing public as long as possible. But there’s nothing normal about the upcoming release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which according to recent reports isn’t screening for year-end awards consideration — and likely won’t be shown ahead of time to critics at all.

What’s being hidden this time is the movie itself — and any spoilerific twists J.J. Abrams has cooked up. In an era of oversaturation, where it’s common for nearly every major joke and reveal to be spoiled by a movie’s trailers and marketing campaign, The Force Awakens has been a cinematic anomaly, parcelling out carefully chosen nuggets of information that have generated unprecedented levels of excitement without revealing much about what audiences will be seeing next month. For fans, it’s a welcome change that’s largely kept the notorious internet spoiler machine at bay — but for studios anxious to control how every facet of how a movie is perceived in order to maximize box office and hype, it could be the new blockbuster template.

Normally when a movie studio decides not to screen a film for critics, it’s a sign of weakness. The film’s not working, so rather than let bad word of mouth hurt the opening weekend, the move is just to hide the problem from the moviegoing public as long as possible. But there’s nothing normal about the upcoming release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which according to recent reports isn’t screening for year-end awards consideration — and likely won’t be shown ahead of time to critics at all.

What’s being hidden this time is the movie itself — and any spoilerific twists J.J. Abrams has cooked up. In an era of oversaturation, where it’s common for nearly every major joke and reveal to be spoiled by a movie’s trailers and marketing campaign, The Force Awakens has been a cinematic anomaly, parcelling out carefully chosen nuggets of information that have generated unprecedented levels of excitement without revealing much about what audiences will be seeing next month. For fans, it’s a welcome change that’s largely kept the notorious internet spoiler machine at bay — but for studios anxious to control how every facet of how a movie is perceived in order to maximize box office and hype, it could be the new blockbuster template.

To get a better idea of just how different the Force Awakens campaign has been, it’s worth jumping back to 1999, when Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out. Back then, online spoiler culture was just getting started, and upstart movie sites like Ain’t It Cool News were making their name by publishing leaks and script reviews months before films hit theaters. The lone bastion of discretion was the world of newspaper and magazine movie reviews, but when fan reactions started popping up online, publications threw their embargoes out the window and published their (largely negative) reviews early — to the vocal frustration of 20th Century Fox executives.

The internet broke the Phantom Menace release strategy, and while it didn’t stop the movie from setting records, it no doubt set the narrative much sooner than Fox would have liked. By playing information keepaway — and putting tickets on sale two months ahead of time — The Force Awakens has been able to sidestep all of that, preventing any outside voices from interfering with the nostalgia-laden message that’s been steadily sent over the past two years. In a sense, it’s been the ultimate exploitation of brand goodwill, capitalizing almost entirely on people’s hope that the movie will be good — because the less you show, the less chance that somebody out there will see something they don’t like.

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Star Wars takes over toy aisles

“Star Wars” is causing a great disturbance in the toy aisles.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and other retailers have loaded up on plastic lightsabers, robotic Yodas and other toys tied to the coming movie, crowding out shelf space and inventory dollars elsewhere in the toy section. The big bets are pushing orders for toy makers, such as Mattel Inc., closer to the holidays and squeezing some smaller competitors in the $22 billion U.S. toy industry.

One property hit hard: “Peanuts.”

Iconix Brand Group Inc., which controls the license to the newest animated Charlie Brown movie, this month cut its sales outlook from “Peanuts” licenses by $24 million for the year largely because it miscalculated how many Snoopy dolls and other “Peanuts” products retailers would buy.

Iconix Chairman Peter Cuneo said retailers devoted much more space than expected to the “Star Wars” brand, rather than gamble on an older property such as “Peanuts” that is being reintroduced to a younger crowd.

“If they have to make a choice between the new guy on the block, ‘Peanuts’ and ‘Star Wars,’ they’re going to choose, and they have chosen, ‘Star Wars,’ ” Mr. Cuneo said last week.

Retailers often make extensive changes to toy aisles from year to year, owing to what movies or television shows are popular with children, or what hot toys have emerged. But this “Star Wars” release has been different: “The Force Awakens” is the first since Walt Disney Co. bought Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4.1 billion in 2012. Disney organized retailers to carry out “Force Friday,” an event that trumpeted the first release of “Star Wars” toys, in early September. And it continues to build hype with the release of new trailers ahead of the Dec. 18 film release.

‘Star Wars Battlefront’ Game to Launch
“Star Wars” toys could generate $2 billion in sales in the last four months of 2015, according to Sean McGowan, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. That would help the toy industry log one of its best holiday seasons in more than a decade. Toy sales are up 8% through the first three quarters of the year, according to data tracker NPD Group Inc., after a 4% increase in 2014. This comes despite more muted projections about overall holiday spending.

Some of the “Star Wars” gains are coming at the expense of other toys. For instance, the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” brand had some of the top-selling toys last year, helped by a summertime action film, yet lost 20% of its Target shelf space this year to “Star Wars.” A spokesman for Viacom Inc.’s Nickelodeon unit, which owns the “Turtles” property, said retailers have already committed more shelf space for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” toys in the months leading up to next year’s movie sequel.

Meanwhile, Target displays that once housed “Frozen” dolls now feature BB-8, a remote-control “Star Wars” character. “Frozen” is also a Disney property.

“There’s a lot of oxygen being sucked out by ‘Star Wars,’ ” said Jay Foreman, chief executive and owner of the Bridge Direct, a small Boca Raton, Fla., toy company. Mr. Foreman said orders for WWE wrestling-ring construction sets and other boys’ toys have softened this year.

The early buying tied to the September “Star Wars” event also pushed other toy orders later into this year. Three of the largest publicly traded U.S. toy companies, Hasbro Inc., Mattel and Jakks Pacific Inc., all recently reported a shift of wholesale orders from the third quarter into the fourth. Mattel attributes part of the shift to retailers investing so much money on “Star Wars” inventory, a person familiar with the matter said.

Battlefront is perfect for couch co-op

Modern first-person shooters come in one of two flavors. There are the e-sport-style multiplayer experiences, where you spend dozens of hours honing your skills, competing against other players online. Then there are the story-driven campaigns, where you fight your way through gaming’s equivalent of a blockbuster movie. Some franchises, like Call of Duty and Halo, offer both of these in a single package; others, like the multiplayer-onlyTitanfall, focus on just one. At first glance, Star Wars: Battlefront, which launches today, falls into the former camp. It’s focused on epic-sized space battles, where Rebels fight against Imperial forces (both sides made up of real players), across iconic landscapes like Hoth and Tatooine.

But there’s another, smaller facet of the experience that lets you pair up with a single buddy and team up to fight off bad guys. You can play in the same room on the same television, a former obligatory feature that’s been gradually removed from big budget games. If you play it a certain way, Battlefront feels a lot like the Nintendo 64 classicGoldeneye.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios to Debut New Star Wars Experiences in December « Disney Parks Blog

You heard about it first during the 2015 D23 EXPO, and now we’re excited to share more details. Very soon, guests visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios will have the opportunity to experience Star Wars in the park in an all-new way – every day! New experiences will open starting Dec. 1, bringing that galaxy far, far away, a little bit closer.

Source: Disney’s Hollywood Studios to Debut New Star Wars Experiences in December « Disney Parks Blog

J.J. Abrams Promises Star Wars: The Force Awakens Is “Delightful” and Explains How He’s Passing the Torch

If you were given only one word to describe your feeling after watching the original Star Wars trilogy, “Delightful” is a good one. That’s also the word J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan focused on when writing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which seems like a good sign.

Source: J.J. Abrams Promises Star Wars: The Force Awakens Is “Delightful” and Explains How He’s Passing the Torch